NHL

Despite delays, Seattle 'fully motivated' to host NHL Expansion Draft, NHL Draft before first season

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USA Today Images

Despite delays, Seattle 'fully motivated' to host NHL Expansion Draft, NHL Draft before first season

Hockey fans in Seattle will have to wait a little longer to take a step inside their future NHL team's new arena. 

In a press conference Thursday, the NHL to Seattle expansion group announced plans to open the arena in June 2021, a slight delay from the project's original target date of spring 2021. However, the new date does make it possible for the Emerald City to become host of the NHL Expansion Draft and NHL Draft before the team takes the ice for the first time during the 2021-22 NHL season.

"That would be a heck of a way to start a franchise," NHL Seattle president Tod Leiweke said in a press conference on Thursday. "We are fully motivated.”

The Seattle Center Arena, formerly known as KeyArena, began renovations in December, but recent design delays and switching contractors have pushed the date for completion back.  

“We’ll know in about a year what the probability of an exact date is,” Leiweke said. “We’ll know a lot more in the coming year.”

The price of the privately-funded project has also soared to somewhere between $900 to $930 million. The initial price was expected to cost around $600 million. Leiweke said the group has provided Mortenson, the project’s new contractor, with special incentives if they can have the arena ready by June 2021. 

"The Storm will play in this building, and they're not really a tenant, they're a partner," Leiweke said. "We have deep admiration for them and what they do. We have a deep admiration for their championships. Hopefully, some of that will rub off on other teams in the building."

The WNBA defending champions will play at University of Washington's Alaska Airlines Arena during the construction of Seattle Center Arena. 

NHL unveils plans for All-Star Game and Draft in Seattle

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NBCS Northwest

NHL unveils plans for All-Star Game and Draft in Seattle

Mark your calendars: the NHL Draft and All-Star Game are coming to Seattle.

In a press conference on Wednesday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman told reporters the league has already begun planning an All-Star game in the Emerald City.

“We’ve promised an All-Star Game to Seattle within seven years of playing,” Bettman said. “That doesn’t mean we’re going to wait seven years. We’ve got to look at the scheduling, both ours and in terms of the city’s availability, to host all of our guests, hotels and everything. But we’re going to be bringing league events here.

“This is where we want to be.”

The news only gets better, as the league said it’s also exploring an appropriate time to bring the NHL Draft to Seattle.

“We need to have an expansion draft, so we’re looking at the possibilities.” Bettman said. “The draft, I’d guess, will be sooner than the All-Star game.”

This is exciting news for hockey fans in the Puget Sound, who found out less than a month ago that Seattle had been awarded the league’s 32nd franchise, which will begin playing in a remodeled KeyArena during the 2021-22 season. 

The jury is still out, however, on Seattle’s franchise name. While the Sockeyes, Metropolitans and Kraken are still in the mix, the NHL Seattle leadership team says they will take their time finding the right identity for the franchise. 

NHL Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke says that in 60 days, the group will roll out a portal for depositors, which gives them the opportunity to weigh in on important items such as the team names.

“Their fingerprints are going to be all over this franchise,” Leiweke says. “At the end of the day, they are the people that gave wind to this franchise. In that process, we absolutely get the team name and I would expect sometime in 2019 we roll that out.”

Seattle’s expansion franchise will take the ice at the newly-improved KeyArena beginning 2021. 

Seattle is selling hockey tickets the way Starbucks sells coffee

Seattle is selling hockey tickets the way Starbucks sells coffee

So all of a sudden, Seattle is a hockey town? Seriously?

I must admit, I'm shocked. Deposits for season tickets for a potential NHL expansion team were taken for the first time Thursday at 10 a.m. online and in just 12 minutes 10,000 commitments -- at either $1,000 or $500 -- were recorded.  That crashed the system, but within an hour, it's been said that 25,000 commitments were received.

It took the latest NHL expansion franchise, in Las Vegas, about six weeks to sell 10,000 season tickets. Of course, ultimately the tickets are going to cost a whole lot more than those deposits and refunds will be given to those who aren't serious buyers or who aren't satisifed with ticket locations. And of course, there won't actually be 25,000 season tickets available. The renovated Key Arena won't be that big. To an extent, this was more a test of hockey interest in Seattle than it was an actual ticket sale. And to a greater degree, it was a publicity stunt.

I'm hearing it was done to help the team acquire a list of possible ticket buyers because the expansion team is going to be granted to Seattle as soon as next week. We shall see.

All I know is what I've heard from my friends in and around the NHL -- league commissioner Gary Bettman is nuts about getting a team in Seattle, even though Portland has been a better hockey town than Seattle for only about the last 50 years. You can talk about the professional WHL and the Buckaroos vs. the Totems or the junior WHL with the Winterhawks vs. the Thunderbirds.

In fact, I think I've figured out how all those ticket deposits came in so fast.

About half of them probably came from Portland.

Seattle has a plan to renovate Key Arena -- likely for the NHL

Seattle has a plan to renovate Key Arena -- likely for the NHL

A private group based in Los Angeles seems to have a plan to renovate Seattle's Key Arena, with the idea of finally making it suitable for hockey and, of course, eventually land an NBA franchise for the city.

The group, Oak View Group, is headed by Tim Leiweke, who has been involved in the Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings of the National Hockey League, as well as other sports ventures. Dynamic super-manager/promoter Irving Azoff serves on the board of Oak View.

Leiweke has virtually guaranteed that if the arena project is completed, Seattle will get "a team:"

"We're going to get you a team," OVG CEO Tim Leiweke told reporters following the winning bid. "Mark it right here. I promise you … we're going to get you at least one team."  

That team quite obviously is in the NHL, which now features an odd number of teams and needs another franchise in its Western Conference. I have two things to say about this announcement:

  • First, it means Portland's immediate chance of landing an expansion team in the NHL are likely zero. That league has seemed totally sold on Seattle over Portland for a while now and this pretty much locks it up. The chance of moving an existing struggling franchise to Portland still exists, however -- although I have heard nothing about such a thing in a while.
  • I've never been all-in on the idea of renovating an existing arena or stadium. It's been done before at Key Arena and didn't have much of an impact. At the cost of this renovation ($600 million) it seems like a very big project. But it's a fixer-upper, just the same. I've seen cities do this in an effort to save inadequate arenas and stadiums and they usually end up not working. Better to just find a plot of land and build something new. I've seen Portland's stadium go through so many iterations to get to the point of being Providence Park and it's still a stadium with charm -- but inadequate concourses, rest rooms, concession stands and sightlines. For all the money spent on it over the years it would have been better to build something updated and more comfortable. I'd say the same for Portland's Memorial Coliseum -- the only renovation that would work there is to just level it and start anew. In Seattle, they better have a great plan because these remodels are often tied to an inadequate structural support system. And that's enough money to come very close to constructing a new arena. Politics, though, have made that almost impossible in Seattle.

 

 

A big night for those monitoring our local big leaguers

A big night for those monitoring our local big leaguers

I always try to keep track of our state-of-Oregon connections who move on to the top level of pro sports. And Sunday was big for three of them, who won games for their teams. Check it out:

Great job, guys.